Amherst to Offer Coalition Application
Issue   |   Wed, 10/07/2015 - 01:52

Amherst has joined 80 other colleges and universities in implementing an alternative college application program, the Coalition Application, in its admissions process. The new service will become available to applicants in July 2016.

The “Coalition Application for Access, Affordability and Success,” proposed as an alternative to the Common Application, is designed to make the college application process easier for applicants and admissions officers. Additional goals include providing resources, such as free organizational tools through the online application, and easing the college selection and financial aid applications for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Admissions officers from the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, of which Amherst is a member, began proposing alternatives to the Common Application in 2013 following technological difficulties resulting from changes to the web-based Common Application. The new application would be an alternative to the Common App, which currently has a monopoly on college applications.

“Further conversation prompted interested colleges and universities to brainstorm about ways we could, as a group, develop a new college planning tool that could facilitate the application process and simultaneously expand our reach to students in need of guidance in the college process,” said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Katie Fretwell ’81.

Amherst will continue to accept the Common Application and the Questbridge application. One of the Coalition Application’s features will be a digital student portfolio for candidates, where they can store essays and other documents.

We like the idea of students developing an inventory of interests, ambitions and accomplishments, and having a place to store them,” Fretwell said. “Ideally, this experience of taking stock of their commitments and passions will empower students in the college process and help them develop the habits of a well-prepared college applicant.”

The program also offers an online collaboration platform, where counselors, mentors, teachers and other third-party members can communicate feedback to students. A dashboard allows students to track their application progress.

Another goal of the Coalition Application, as stated in its press release, is to make the college search and financial aid application processes easier for students from high schools that lack such resources. Fretwell said participation in the Coalition could strengthen Amherst’s commitment to help students from a variety of backgrounds through the college process.

“Amherst, like all coalition member institutions, recognizes that not all secondary schools can provide well developed college guidance programs and the coalition members hope to support these schools, community-based organizations and their students by providing these free resources,” Fretwell said.

Member institutions of the coalition are required to meet the full demonstrated financial need of domestic students and have a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent. Amherst exceeds these requirements and regularly has a six-year graduation rate over 95 percent.

Other schools participating in the Coalition include liberal arts colleges such as Williams, Swarthmore and Pomona, the Ivy League universities, and various other private and public institutions. Within the Five College Consortium, Smith College and Mount Holyoke College are also members of the Coalition.

According to Gail Berson, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission at Mt. Holyoke, the new features of the Coalition Application will enhance the college’s holistic admissions process.

“As a test-optional institution for more than a decade, we place primary evidence on the rigor, course selection and grades from high school when reviewing candidates for admission,” Berson said. “Writing is an equally important element. Their submissions may come to us in a narrative form and they may rely on other media, but in the end, these materials will help each student to assert her full story as we parse the very thin differences between and among students of extraordinary talent.”

Berson also cited increased access to students from diverse backgrounds as a reason for joining the coalition.
The online tools that are part of the coalition Application will be available in January 2016, with applications opening in July 2016 for the class of 2020. The application itself and the platform are still being designed.